O'Neill: We were robbed

Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill hit out at referee Rob Styles for failing to award his side a last-minute penalty during the 1-1 home draw with West Ham.

O’Neill was convinced that Hammers defender James Tomkins had handled the ball under pressure from Villa striker John Carew.

But Styles waved aside Villa’s protests as their winless run was extended to 11 games, leaving their hopes of Champions League football hanging by a thread.

O’Neill said: “We were denied a clear-cut penalty in the last minute of the game. You have got to be able to see those.

“The player has clearly punched the ball away. It is not as if it brushed against him, but that is the way things are going for us at present.

“We are playing to full houses every week because of the way we are playing attacking-wise, but at the moment we can’t get a victory on the board.”

O’Neill admitted his side now face an uphill task if they are to overhaul fourth-placed Arsenal, who are seven points clear and have a game in hand on the midlands club.

He said: “In the last three games we have played some brilliant stuff, but have taken just two points, and maybe winning, like losing, becomes a habit.

“We got an early goal and we could have scored five times in the opening 25 minutes, but we were unable to get the second goal.

“We have to be able to see games through, but we definitely deserved more from the game.”

On Villa’s Champions League chances, O’Neill added: “If we could have won today, we would have been back in with a chance. Our fixtures are difficult, but maybe Arsenal would have been under more pressure going to Liverpool on Tuesday had we won today.

“Had this result happened in mid-season, we could have brushed it aside and made up for it away from home.

“But it is now going to be a very difficult task for us. We need help from other sources, but we really needed to have won today.”

West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola was full of praise for the fighting qualities shown by his injury-hit team, which suffered another blow when defender James Collins had to be substituted in the first half with a calf problem.

Zola said: “We have injuries, and they just keep happening. It has been like that since the beginning of the season, but the team never lets itself down.

“We always fight, and I was delighted again with the attitude. No matter whom we face, we always give 100%, and it is the trademark of this team.”

Zola again reiterated his desire to sign a new, lengthier contract with the Hammers to replace the current rolling 12-month deal.

He said: “The club has been looking at this and we are talking about it , and things are looking good.

“Maybe in the next few weeks it will happen. The club has been very good to me, and I appreciate that.

“I believe the club is going to improve and things are looking good.”

Emile Heskey broke the deadlock after 11 minutes with his second goal for Villa, but Diego Tristan rescued a point for the Hammers in the 84th minute when he deflected home a shot going wide from substitute Kieron Dyer.

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